Nightmare Come True!

I had a moment where I thought I was dreaming. I stood in front of this sixth grade class while students stood in their chairs, some in corners talking to each other, some eating chips and some on their laptops; but none of them were paying any attention to me. For the longest five seconds of my life, I melted where I stood.

I woke up with such an overwhelming excitement that my alarm was still asleep. I dressed myself and my little human, Aria, who hates mornings just as much as I do. Today was different though. For 45 minutes, I was going to be in charge of my own class teaching a Junior Achievement lesson.

I rushed Aria to her Nana’ s house and sped to the Elementary Magnet school which was supposed to be an hour away. I ended up getting there in 40 minutes, which made me a half hour early for my lesson. I reviewed the material in the car, took a deep breath and said a prayer.

I eventually gathered my nerves in my purse and headed up to the class. They were on the playground and I watched with care as they made their way into the room. I met these students already and they were so pleasant that I couldn’t wait to get back. I was excited to entertain them as well as teaching my own class.

The first 15 minutes were easy. They seemed somewhat tired from being outside, but they were attentive and interested. It made me feel great about myself. However, at some point, there was a shift. One male student tried to fight a female student yelling out “bitch! Bitch!” The three students in front of me were talking to each other as if I wasn’t standing there and three girls in the back were giggling and laughing while eating candy. I was sure I could regain their attention. I sent them into groups and had them move around the classroom like I learned in Dr. Scanlon’s class. That brought them back to the lesson and they were interested again. When I tried to check for learning, I lost them again. I felt my confidence leave me in a bead of sweat that raced down the side of my face and onto the floor.

“Think, Christella. Think!” I wasn’t thinking. I don’t think I was BREATHING. How will I teach high school if I can’t get this class in order? I finally had an idea and I was hoping it would work. I fed into the madness.

“Hey what are you eating? Are you enjoying it?”

“Hey are you on youtube? You seriously like that song? Yikes!”

Over and over around the class, I entertained whatever it is was more important than my lesson. I don’t understand the magic behind it, but it worked. I linked their randomness to the lesson I was teaching and it further excited them. I was able to end the lesson with a bang! The students stayed engaged with me. The lesson ended up going over by 15 minutes, but I believe it was worth it. The teacher was being as supportive as he could be in the midst of the madness and invited me back.

I guess it didn’t go as bad as I thought!


4 thoughts on “Nightmare Come True!

  1. Glad to hear that you made it through this real life nightmare! I thought your feeding into the madness approach was awesome. It showed the students that you are more than just a robot and that you are interested in them and that you can relate to them. In my few substitute experiences I have had classes engage in similar off task distractions and I am sure that both of us will experience this type of behavior again in the future. Over time you will gain strategies and confidence to deal with these issues without stressing about them, I am sure of it. Just remember that grade school students truly do have short attention spans at times and that they just need a quick off topic conversation once in a while. Thank you for sharing your experience and good luck with future teaching endeavors!


  2. Hi! I loved this post. I did JA a couple semesters ago and it was a nightmare. Maybe if I had tried your technique I wouldn’t have had such a rough time.
    Great post!


  3. Flexibility and thinking on your feet will carry you far! It is a good opportunity to practice without consequences! Just breath! I like to dole out post-its of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes kids just don’t want to listen to each other and need to process differently. Good work! Keep breathing! Keep connecting to where they are at! They like to know we are paying attention.


  4. I also did JA lessons last semester for a fifth grade class and it went similar for me too. I realized early that it was less important to teach it from the book and more important to connect it to things that they are familiar with and interested in. When they provided the examples of the content I was teaching, it went a lot more smoothly and the class was managed better, as in your situation. Glad you had a rewarding first JA lesson!


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